Bloggers, thinking of launching a forum?

LaunchBuilding a successful blog is a lot of hard work, and increasing your traffic is even harder because it requires that you constantly produce more content. You may have considered launching a community forum. A forum can be a great complement to a blog. It engages the readership by giving them somewhere to hang out and lets them build up a reputation. It’s also a great place to source ideas and additional content that can be repurposed as blog articles. Sounds great, yet you have some concerns about the time and effort to get a forum off the ground.

It’s true that forums have been around for a long time and some of the older software platforms that are still in use remind of the days of floppy disks and Windows™ 3.0. It’s also true that many forum software vendors haven’t taken notice of how the new social platforms have become really good at drawing people back in with constant notifications and real-time activity streams. While Twitter and Facebook provide users with constant gratification and are great platforms for broadcasting disparate bits of information, they haven’t been able to improve on the discussion forum format as a way for a group of people to have a coherent conversation. At Vanilla we are marrying the forum with modern usability and engagement techniques so that you get the best of both worlds. The fact is that new forum communities are being launched everyday and some of the successful ones have grown into large diversified media companies. Take Penny-Arcade.com for example.

Modern forum platforms like Vanilla are designed to make moderation and administration simple. Gamification and reputation are used to encourage positive behavior and keep abusive members from spoiling the mood. Gamification is using game mechanics to encourage desired behaviors – i.e. giving someone a reward for doing something that you want them to do. In forums, members are incented to do things like complete their profile, post comments, get ‘likes’ from others, etc.

The hardest part of launching a community is getting that critical mass of participants that will attract a large membership. You need content in the forum to attract participation but without participation, there is no content. They way to get around is to use your forum as your blog commenting system. Each article posted to the blog is mirrored in the forum and each commenter that registers to leave a comment will also be registered to the forum. Someone logging into the forum for the first time will see lots of threads and lots of comments and be more likely to stick around and create a new discussion. Since launching our commenting system we’re happy to see some of our customer being successful with this . A great example is www.9to5mac.com which very recently launched www.9to5forums.com seeded using Vanilla Comments.